Journalists Embrace Story Maps

Advancements in mapping and GIS technology have created a new medium for interactive storytelling and reconnecting people to place.

Maps have long been a valuable tool used by journalists to illustrate and enhance written stories. And with new advancements in mapping and GIS technology, the use of maps in the media now has even more potential for engaging with audiences.

Story maps let you combine authoritative maps with narrative text, images, and multimedia content. They make it easy to harness the power of maps and geography to tell your story.

Journalists are already starting to embrace story maps as a powerful new medium that lets them tell engaging stories.  And it’s easy, too. There’s absolutely no programming required to build a story map: simply choose the best application template for telling your story and start building it interactively.

Let’s take a look at how some journalists have leveraged the power of story maps to help tell their stories.


Anatomy of an Air Disaster

Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 was an Airbus A320-216 flight that went missing en route to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia, on 28 December 2014, with 155 passengers and 7 crew on board.

Across the South East Asia region, media outlets used an interactive story map to help readers understand all aspects of the AirAsia Flight 8501 crash and recovery process.


Examining Officer-Involved Shootings in Los Angeles

How frequent are officer-involved shootings in Los Angeles, and do they vary by geography? Because no official database exists, KNBC, the NBC affiliate in Los Angeles, compiled their own data from public record requests, press releases, and news stories. According to their research, police throughout the Los Angeles area have been involved in 644 shootings from 2009 to August 2014.

KNBC’s Officer-Involved Shootings in the Los Angeles Area story map lets you explore the data and see correlations between officer-involved shootings and race, poverty, and crime.


Interactive Map Gives Perspective on Massive Fire

A number of media outlets, including Time Magazine, used an interactive story map to give their readers a more complete picture of the Rim Fire that started near Yosemite National Park in August 2013. The Rim Fire threatened many communities near Yosemite National Park and posed a potential risk to several ranger stations and sequoia groves.

This story map helped people visualize which areas and infrastructure were threatened by the fire, how the fire progressed, and where fires have ravaged the area in the past. The map also shows the location of the O’Shaughnessy Dam and reservoir, which provides water for the San Francisco Bay Area.


The World Almanac of Wealth

Every year, Forbes magazine publishes a list of the world’s billionaires.  But in 2014, they did something different with the data: they put it on a map.

Does geography impact net worth? This story map lets you see where the 1,645 individuals on the 2014 Forbes billionaires list reside. You can browse through the numbered tabs to explore the distribution of billionaires by region, and then click on dots on the map to see more information about each billionaire.


Mapping the Radical Islamists’ Bloody Campaign through Iraq

Mashable used a story map to track ISIL’s movements across Iraq and show readers how the group slowly gained control of a significant portion of the country.


The True Story of the Monuments Men

Coincident with the release of the movie “The Monuments Men,” Smithsonian Magazine published an article about the real story of this desperate effort to save Europe’s artistic and cultural heritage. In addition, a story map was produced by Esri’s story maps team in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution to help readers to better understand these heroic efforts in geographic context.


Olympic Controversies, Scandals, and Stardom

From doping to protests, to the famous “whack heard ‘round the world,” Esri created a story map of 20 historic Olympic moments for use by global media.  A number of media outlets, including Al Jazeera, used this story map as part of their coverage of the 2014 Olympics.


Tell Your Story with Story Maps

“We live at a time and in a world in which people can become so glued to their gadgets they forget the place where they are standing,” said Krissy Clark of American Public Media, adding that journalists equipped with the latest mapping tools have “a unique opportunity to reconnect people to place.”

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Do you have a story to tell? Learn how you can harness the power of maps to tell yours.

Matt Artz

About Matt Artz

Matt Artz joined Esri in 1989. In his current role as GIS and Science Manager, he helps communicate the value of GIS as a tool for scientific research and understanding. He writes extensively about geospatial technologies and manages the GIS and Science blog. Prior to joining Esri he worked as an Environmental Scientist at a large science and engineering consulting company, on such diverse projects as highway noise modeling, archaeological impact assessment, and chemical weapons disposal. His educational background includes an M.S. degree in Environmental Policy and Planning and a B.S. degree in Anthropology and Geography.
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